The wind is howling outside, you can hear the rain beating against your roof and windows and then, *click*, the power shuts off. No lights, no refrigeration, no hot water, no heat. What’s your plan? How long can you last before you need help or electricity?
Hurricane activity and winter storms can wreak havoc on the DC area’s power grid, despite our city planners’ best efforts. A home generator can alleviate concerns like these and allow homeowners to sit out a storm in relative comfort.
If you’re in the market for this emergency power source, we’re here to give you the scoop on home generators.
Reasons to Buy a Generator
A main reason it is worth it to buy a home generator is to keep your refrigerator and freezer running smoothly to avoid food spoilage. Additionally, it is useful to power your office if you work from home and also to prevent the outage of any necessary medical devices.
When you’re shopping for a home generator, consider the situations that you are buying it for. If you want preparedness for a hurricane, how many days would you expect the power to be out? What are the necessities you need power for and for how many days? Thinking about what is truly necessary and what can you do without will determine which type of home generator to get.
If you’re still wondering, “Why do I need a generator?” then here are 5 specific reasons to consider:
1.) Powering Your Sump Pump
So why buy a generator? One reason is for your sump pump. Sump pumps work to help prevent flooding in your home. They gather excess water collecting into a sump pit. If water rises to a predetermined level, the sump pump automatically disposes of the water by transferring it out and into a local sewage drain. Without power, however, a dump pump isn’t able to work. A generator would help keep your sump pump running, even if bad storms and rain have caused an outage, thereby protecting your home from flooding.
2.) Powering Your Home Business
Many people have some sort of home business that runs on wifi and power. If you’re in this group of people, then you probably shouldn’t be wondering, “Why do I need a generator” since your business needs one. A power outage throws an obvious wrench in the workings of such a business. A generator can keep your power steady so you don’t need to worry about hiccups in your business’s success.
3.) Powering Electric Medical Devices
If you or anyone in your home relies on electric medical devices to survive or live comfortably, then a generator could very well be a necessity for you. Any type of medical device that requires electricity to operate is at risk in the case of a power outage. Having a generator, however, will keep these devices working smoothly regardless.
4.) Powering Your Well Water
If your home’s water is supplied by well water, then you might already know that the water stops flowing when the power is out. It might even get brown and rusty. To make sure you always have running water that’s drinkable (and flushable!), try getting a generator.
5.) Use for Camping/Boating Equipment
Why buy a generator if you don’t need it for your home? Because they’re incredibly useful in so many other scenarios. A generator can be the perfect solution if you have a boathouse, camper, or any other equipment you need power but don’t want to power all day, every day. With a generator, you can control when a machine or appliance gets power and when it doesn’t, meaning you could use it just for your camping trips and save power all other times.
Need generator repairs today? Schedule service with John C. Flood.
Permanent Standby Generators
Costing in the thousands and requiring installation by a licensed electrician, standby generators are a permanent upgrade to your home. The idea of getting one can cause many homeowners to question, “Should I buy a generator?” Located outside of the home, these appliances are similar in look and size to a central AC condenser. If your home regularly loses power, you may find life running smoother with this backup power option.
Immediate Power Restoration
Are home generators worth it? Well, if your home is equipped with a permanent standby generator, you might not even notice when the power goes out. Usually plugged directly into a natural gas line (or else a propane tank), these home generators work with your home’s existing transfer switch and will activate mere seconds after detecting a power outage. Once installed, you won’t need to lift a finger to activate this appliance, whether you’re home or not!
Standby home generators don't require fresh fuel or any external fuel storage at all. Because most options will connect to your natural gas line, you don’t have to worry about keeping fresh fuel around or the dangers that come with it.
Another advantage of a permanent standby generator is that they turn on and do a test run every 30 days and will alert you to any issues. If you never get an alert from your generator, you know that it will be ready to go when your household needs it. Permanent generators are also obviously not portable and are quite complicated to disconnect, thus are not a common target of theft.
Powered by a Furnace
With a permanent standby generator, a licensed electrician can easily choose the furnace as one of your appliances to receive generator power when your electricity fails. For a gas or diesel-powered portable generator, using it to power a gas furnace is a riskier proposition. It is possible and indeed one of the primary uses of portable generators during the winter months, but it has a high-risk factor for carbon monoxide poisoning if you don’t take every safety precaution.
With prices beginning near $100 and up, portable generators are the appliances flying off hardware store shelves when a huge storm is headed to the Mid-Atlantic. Equipped with rubber tires and literally ready to roll, these home generators are powered by gasoline or diesel, which should be stored separately. You don't need to be an expert of any kind to get these machines to work.
Carbon Monoxide Dangers
The Achilles heel of portable generators is that they must be run outdoors, which makes them vulnerable to theft and risk of electrocution in the event of a big storm or natural disaster. The temptation to run them indoors is a strong one for too many owners, making carbon monoxide poisoning a very dangerous and fast reality. Even when run properly outdoors with the connection feeding through a window or door, you should always have a carbon monoxide detector nearby so you know if this odorless gas is leeching into your home.
Volatile Fuel Storage
When preparing for the potential use of your portable generator, you’ll need to stock up on fresh gas or diesel. Because these fuels rely on volatile particles to get the engine firing, and these particles are the first to evaporate, having non-stale fuel on hand for emergencies can be a challenge. Follow government-approved guidelines for safe fuel storage and backup generator use.
What To Look for in Buying a Generator
If you’re questioning, “Should I get a generator?” then you should look first into what purpose you’d need it to serve. To find the appropriate generator for you and your home, you must first figure out what you need the generator to do. Must it only serve emergency loads or do you need it to power the entire house? This information changes what size generator you need and can also have an effect on where the switch should be located. It affects how the generator should be installed and more.
When it comes to buying a generator, you not only want to make sure there’s enough space for installation but it should also be installed in an accessible area while being out of reach from any water. There are some code requirements for generators with minimum distances from walls and buildings when installed outside since most generators need ventilation. Talk with a licensed HVAC professional to understand the best place for your generator installation and to see what size unit you’ll be able to install.
It goes without saying that the generator you purchase needs to fit within your budget. When purchasing a generator, it’s important to be clear on the details and duration of the warranty that comes with your unit. Some generators may appear to have a better price but have a far inferior warranty, or have some other issue with the unit.
It’s possible to find a reasonably priced residential generator with a five-year warranty that will last you many years. Determine what needs your generator needs to fulfill and don’t just go with the cheapest option. Otherwise, you may end up spending more in the long run.
Which Generator Should You Buy?
So, are home generators worth it? It honestly comes down to your own needs. Convenience comes at a premium (we’re looking at you, standby generators!), but is often worth the price for safe and simple operation if you can afford it. In terms of safety, ease of use, and convenience, the standby generator wins in all categories.
However, while fuel storage, proper ventilation, and risk of theft all work against the portable generator, but it will usually win out on price.
If you’re still asking yourself, “Should I get a generator?” then it’s probably time to consult a professional for more specific details.
If you need a standby generator installed or repaired on your property, call the licensed electrician experts at John C. Flood to schedule service. Our courteous professionals will get your generator in tip-top condition, so you’re never left in the dark. Schedule service today!